All She Ever Wanted

Almost Home

Daniel's Gift

Golden Lies

Just the Way You Are

Love Will Find a Way

Played

Summer Secrets

One True Love

Some Kind of Wonderful

The Sweetest Thing

Taken

 
Suddenly One Summer
by Barbara Freethy
(Pocket, $7.99, PG)† ISBN 978-1-4391-0156-8
**
Suddenly One Summer is the first in a series of books about an unusual small town in California that long-time romance author Barbara Freethy is planning.† And thatís basically whatís wrong with this novel.† Freethy spends so much of the story setting up the series that the major plot and romance of this first installment† get short shrift.† And then, there are all those angels.

† The setting is Angelís Bay, an idyllic (arenít they always) small town with a unique claim to fame.† It is apparently home to a whole bunch of angels.† A century and a half earlier, a ship had wrecked off the rugged California coast.† While many were lost, many were saved.† The survivors claimed that they had been rescued by angels.† One particular survivor was a baby girl who was found on the beach and who had an unusual angel-wing shaped birthmark on her foot.† Since that long ago day, many in the town have believed in angels and have the stories about miraculous actions to bolster their claims.

† While such stories brought a certain degree of fame to the town, renewed renown came when two fisherman claimed to see and have videoed a slew of angels hovering over the bay.† When unusual lines begin appearing on the rock face above the town, the fun begins.† People start coming to town in droves to try to see the angels.

† One visitor is Reid Tanner, who has been sent by Spotlight Magazine to ferret out the story.† Working for a tabloid is serious demotion for a reporter who once worked for the biggest and best of the nationís newspapers.† But a tragedy related to one of his stories had led Reid to quit his job and he is reduced to looking for angels.† One night, he comes upon one, but an angel who clearly has something to hide.

† Jenna Davies is a relative newcomer to Angelís Bay.† She and her daughter Lexie arrived a couple of months earlier and have tried hard to keep a low profile.† But one night, Jenna sees a woman jump from the pier into the bay and rushes to save her.† When Reid tries to take the heroineís picture, she deletes the images.† This action merely piques Reidís curiosity and he sets out to figure out exactly why this lovely young woman is so keen on maintaining her privacy.† This quest and the blossoming attraction is the purported major plot and romance of Suddenly One Summer.† But, Freethy devotes too little of her book to Jennaís and Reidís story.

† Rather, we meet all the characters who are clearly going to play major roles in the upcoming novels.† There is Annie, the young pregnant girl whom Jenna saves.† Who is the father of her baby?† There is Dr. Charlotte Adams, the obstetrician who treats Annie and the daughter of the late, lamented local minister.† What will she do about her latent attraction for the chief of police and how will she respond when her high school boy friend returns to town to take her fatherís place?† There is said police chief, Joe Silveira, a transplant from Los Angeles to Angelís Bay.† What will he do about his wifeís dislike of small towns and her preferences for the bright lights of the city?† There are Kara and Colin Lynch, real estate agent and policeman.† How will they figure in the story?† There are the ladies who quilt; yes, quilting is a big thing in Angelís Bay.

† I am not a reader who insists that my romances concentrate to the exclusion of all else on the relationship of the hero and heroine.† I enjoy interesting subplots and secondary characters.† But Freethyís long digressions into the backstories and personalities of so many characters in Suddenly One Summer detracted from rather than added to my enjoyment of the book.

† And then there are the angels.† I am an agnostic on the existence of angels and I am well aware of the current trend towards fantasy in romance.† Indeed, I am perfectly willing to suspend disbelief and accept all sorts of paranormal happenings in a well-crafted romance, even if I donít go looking for these kinds of stories.† (I remember Freethyís Danielís Gift, which also had an angelic character, with fondness.)† But I have to say that there was something unpersuasive about the whole ďangelĒ thing in this particular instance.† Rather than carrying the story and the reader along with the fantasy, it seemed forced and distracting.

† In the end, Suddenly One Summer left me unsatisfied.† While Reid and Jenna were interesting characters and had interesting stories, their romance was underdeveloped as was the resolution of the factors that had led Jenna to flee to Angelís Bay.† But I finally realize why the book didnít work for me.† By the end, I should have believed in angels.† And I didnít.† † † †

--Jean Mason


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